We were in El Paso a couple of months ago testing IMUSA tamale steamers and decided it was the perfect opportunity to host a tamalada (a tamal-making party) with our mother, tias, and a couple of cousins. Thankfully our cousin Ericka graciously opened her home and cocina for all of us, and our other cousin Leah documented it all with her amazing photography skills. You can check out her photography blog here.

After a very hectic schedule of testing several tamale steamers, where we made and steamed literally hundreds of tamales we were crazy enough to think we could host a tamalada. We figured why not, we’re already in the groove. We had one day left in our busy schedule to squeeze in one more event so we coordinated a tamalada with those who are the closest we have to grandma, her daughters (our tias), and our mother.

If you’ve ever taken part in a tamalada you understand the energy surrounding it. It must be the fumes in the masa or something about making hundreds of little gifts in an oja (corn husk) because once we all sat around and started wrapping and making the tamales the best stories from the past resurfaced. A tamalda leads to all sorts of chit chat and remembrances of some of our familias history, which normally doesn’t happen at any other time. That day we all talked, we laughed, we cried, and then we talked some more. Wrapping tamales with our mother, cousins, and tias was immeasurable. We are eternally grateful to have spent that beautiful October morning with mom, Ericka, Leah, Tia Natalia, and Tia Ernestina. Gracias y un gran besote for taking the time to spend it with us making tamales. We wouldn’t trade that day for anything in the world.

That day really solidified the importance of documenting our family’s recipes. Our mother is the youngest of all her siblings, and was always with grandma in the kitchen. Thankfully for us she memorized all of our grandma’s recipes including her legendary tamales. We were surprised to hear that our tias had not made tamales in years, so mom teaching all of us grandmas tricks and techniques was priceless. Traditionally our grandma made red chile and pork tamales and sweet raisin tamales for the kids. Through the years our mom has made additional fillings including green chile and pork and a new favorite, rajas con queso. Grandma’s old tried and true tamale recipes and mom’s new recipes are truly invaluable. I hope one day we too can add to their list of tamale filling recipes.  

As we wrapped each tamal we talked about our late grandma and all the special family gatherings we used to have when we were little kids. It was a walk down memory lane but most of all it was a day filled con mucho amor.

We encourage you to host a tamalada, a cookie party, or something in the kitchen. These moments are truly precious and more often than not, only come but once a year.

Many of you have asked us for our tamale recipe, and we hope you understand how dear it is to us. We are saving our tamal masa recipe and the variety of filling options for our cookbook and hope that you are excited to see them in print as much as we are.

Photography by Leah Audrae